Eating In Japan With Kids

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The food and restaurants of Tokyo and Japan.

Japan is one of those countries that the cuisine itself is a big appeal. Like France, Italy or Thailand people often travel to Japan with the main intent of their trip being to eat. We expected great food – and found it – what surprised me was how reasonably priced, often downright cheap, the food was. We often got two big rice bowls or noodle soup for dinner for less than $15. Obviously we weren’t hitting the high ends spots or the very best restaurants and I don’t doubt that you can spend some serious money (and be rewarded with some fantastically great food) but for what we were looking for – inexpensive authentic Japanese food that would please both kids and an adult – we found easily and cheaply.

The search for food. Walking the neighborhood where we were staying and looking for an appealing restaurant was a nightly ritual on our trip to Japan.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

We made the mistake of ending up outside Tokyo station on a Sunday looking for a place to eat. Finding nothing open we wandered for a good hour and several miles before stumbling on a sushi bar and going to town.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

We ate a ridiculous number of treats during the trip…

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Who knew there were bakeries and donut shops at just about every subway station.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Many places had vending machines inside where you’d select your food then take it to the counter. It was nice because there were either small pictures above each button so you could at least guess at the contents of a meal or you could stand in front of the machine looking like a dumb tourist until someone came to your aid to show you which button corresponded with which meal.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

We ate primarily Japanese food (for lunch and dinner) – except one night when the kids talked me into Indian food …

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

… and another when an Italian restaurant was just too close and easy to dismiss. (This didn’t stop Kipling from taking a break for a little nap.)

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Sitting at the counter was fun. The kids got to watch the meals being prepared and I was able to point at dishes and say “Uhm,  one of those please.”

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Add the soy sauce …

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

… and then dig in.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Samuel tried his best with the chop sticks.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

But would ditch them if he had to.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Kipling couldn’t get the chop sticks down, but shoveled well with his spoon.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

My kids refer to all cereal as “Raisin Bran” which would confuse any server but doubly so for the unfortunate Japanese hosts that had to take our breakfast order. Here’s Samuel adapting the Japanese style of eating to a western breakfast.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Just the favorites during our last meal in Tokyo.

Food, restaurants, and eating in Japan with children.

Japan with Kids – Video

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About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers, mapmakers, videographers, and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at

  1. Restaurants near Sotetsu Tokyo Toyocho

    Thoroughly enjoying your site! We head to Tokyo next month with two kids (3 and 6) and staying at the Sotetsu Tokyo Toyocho. We arrive on a Sunday night as well– do we need to be concerned about finding dinner? Goal was land at 3pm, take train in, check in to hotel, grab dinner and sleep. I’m hoping it doesn’t take us too long to find dinner.
    Thank you! Trish

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      There is not a lot directly around the Sotetsu Tokyo Toyocho hotel but there are a few places and certainly enough to get by for an evening. (You have good subway connections with the rest of Tokyo but it sounds like you want something close without negotiating the trains.) Your best bet is Yoshinoya – a Japanese chain that serves pretty good rice bowls, delicious actually. There’s one to both your right (the closer one) and left as you exit your hotel. There’s also a Coco Ichibanya Curry to your right (a little farther than the Yoshinoya). And there’s a McDonalds immediately next to your hotel but please, don’t do it (you’re in Japan!).

  2. Eating in Japan with Young Children

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the invaluable info. I’m traveling with my family to Japan later this year. I was wondering if you had any idea on the high chair/booster seat situation in any of the smaller restaurants around Tokyo. I’m wondering if I should bring a portable high chair. We will have a 3 year old and a 1 year old.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The Japanese love children, and many restaurants will try to accommodate then. That being said, note that the majority of privately owned Japanese restaurants will not have high chairs and might be so small they won’t be able to accommodate a stroller. Furthermore, although you may not be planning to splurge on one, more expensive fancier restaurants (both Japanese and Western) may not allow children at all.

      There are, however, many restaurants that cater to families. Your best bet for finding these are in department stores or chains like Jonathan’s or Royal Host. These will have high chairs, though note that these are simply high chairs for youngsters that pull up to the table (no tray and no belt). Other restaurants may have a tatami area where families are often seated and there are pillows to sit on. In any case, family restaurants have children’s menus, which are often quite creative and fun and may even include a small toy.

      Since a portable high chair might be bulky, your best bet if you want to be safe is a cloth harness that velcroes around a chair to hold a toddler in place (have a look at Totseat and Snazzy Baby products). I’ve also seen Japanese mothers use scarves to secure their child in a chair.

      As for those strollers, there are lots of stairs to navigate in Tokyo (at stations where elevators may be hard to locate, if at all, overhead pedestrian passages) so your best bet is a baby backpack for the one-year-old and an umbrella stroller for the three-year-old. Note, too, that many attractions that attract families such as zoos and department stores have rental strollers.

      Have fun! There are many attractions in Tokyo for families, from parks to Ueno zoo to aquariums to hands-on science museums.

  3. Restrooms in Tokyo

    Thank you for posting the pix and wonderful tips. Husband and I will be taking a 2-night trip to Tokyo with our 2 children in January. It’s my forth time there (been over 20 years since my last trip to Japan!) and first time for husband and kids. This might be an odd question, but wondering was it easy to find public restrooms? And do they cost (like in the UK)? Between sky tree & tokyo tower, which one would you suggest to go see since we only have 1 and a half day there…. Mahalo! :)

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Restrooms are easy to find, just about alway spotlessly clean and free. I’d lean towards Tokyo Tower – a bit more central. If you do decide on Sky Tree take a river tour back to central Tokyo.

  4. Nicole

    This is such a cool blog post!!!!!!
    It’s so cute how he fell asleep in the italian restaurant!!!

  5. Jillian in Italy

    Thanks for the tips. I’m taking my 3 kids to Japan in a few weeks for a family vacation. We’re all looking forward to it. I’m happy to hear there is reasonably priced food to be found!

  6. Sally

    Hi, I was very impressed with your site! And as for TGIF, I was very much amused to see a banner in front of TGIF in Shinagawa, Tokyo, that read “America’s No.1 Restaurant!!” I know they think the Japanese don’t know anything about the US. lol

  7. John

    In answer to Rega – yes, Tokyo has Olive Garden (or “House”, I think), Outback and TGIs. Also Hard Rock Cafe, Tony Romas and any number of Japanese-western restaurants. There are also western-inspired chains such as Jonathans and Denny’s.

  8. Rega

    The food looks great. I’m a little embarrassed to ask, but do they have American food in Japan. I know they have McDonalds but what about chain restaurants like Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse and TGI Fridays? Thanks for the great info.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Hey Rega. Short answer: I don’t have a clue. Didn’t notice them. Longer answer: There are definitely some great Italian restaurants in Tokyo and plenty of pizza and pasta to be found. I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t find a good steak. And I have no idea what TGI’s even serves so couldn’t recommend a substitute but if it’s food I bet you can find it somewhere. The hotel staff in Tokyo hotels is really remarkable and well informed. Ask at the front desk and I’m sure they’ll figure it out for you, give you a map of Tokyo and give you directions to get you there. With me, they were always incredibly helpful.

      Good luck.

      1. Helen

        Hey I live in Tokyo and yes, there are your American chain types.
        Outback in Roppongi as well as Hard Rock and TGIFs too.
        Need any help or where to stay, just mail me,
        I’m in central Tokyo, my apt overlooks Tokyo tower so can’t bet much more central than that.
        Japan is a fab city and I’d love to show anyone round.

        1. Belinda

          Hi Helen, I am just getting ready to move my family to Tokyo, including my 3 year old son. I am a little nervous on the best way to introduce new foods. I wouldn’t say he is tremendously picky but it takes a lot to introduce something new. Thanks, Belinda

    2. Leslie

      Yes to Outback and TGIFriday’s. I’ve been to both. Just know, though, that everything in Japan has a Japanese spin. (For example, McDonald’s has a shrimp burger.). But that is a good thing–part of what makes the country so unique and amazing.

  9. Jen

    It is great that your kids tried so many food items! Are they picky eaters at home? I find that my extremely picky son who wants nothing but chicken tenders at home will try just about anything while we are traveling!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      That’s great. My guys eat a lot of different stuff at home, for sure. If you’re looking for a country to really immerse your family in the local culture then Japan is great because you don’t have all the options that are found in Thailand or Greece or France. Or I guess I should say, those “options” are there but they’re not front and center like they are in other countries. There isn’t the tourist infrastructure like there is in other countries that targets the foreign tourists.

  10. Randy @thelollipoproad

    In the smaller towns, we had a hard time finding something other than Japanese style cuisine, but we did find an Englsh Pub and that became a quick favorite! Getting fresh fruit was also a challenge. Although there are some amazing Japanese dishes, there is also a great deal of food that is outside of the mainstream for Americans, so it really is about experimenting.

    I would highly recommend staying and dining at a traditional Buddhist Monastary…the food was delicious!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      We were only in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto so didn’t experience that.

      Great tip on the monastery though.

  11. Cate

    So much food, I feel full just going through the photos. I love Japanese noodles of all kinds. Some of the best and cheaper places are usually found in and around the train stations in Japan.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      For sure. The pictures with the noodles and the soy sauce were at a restaurant right in Osaka train station. The one below those were in a department store with fantastic food. Definitely different than here. When I’m hungry, I’m sure not heading to the train station or a department store here in Seattle.

  12. Amy @ The Q Family

    Yummy! It’s good to know that Japanese food is not as expensive as here in the States. I love the napping during break time picture. :)

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      I’m sure it can be as expensive. Come to think of it, I’m sure it can be more expensive. But there are other option there. Japan needn’t be super expensive. Even for hotels there are some fairly cheap options.

  13. Wanderluster

    I definitely must bookmark this as we are planning on a trip to Japan. I’ve always heard that Japan is so expensive but there are definitely other options than eating at pricey Kobe beef restaurants!!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      I was surprised too. And it was all so good. I rarely knew what exactly I was eating but who cares when it’s delicious.

  14. Sophie

    Fun photos. Especially like the one with the naan-bread :)

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      That was one great naan. The chicken tikka masala had eggs in it – welcome to Japan – but was still great. The kids gobbled it too, as you can just make out from my son’s two empty plates.

  15. Victoria

    We had a great time eating in Japan, and like you found it really reasonable. We loved sitting at the bar and watching what was going on too. I’m SO looking forward to taking the children next summer. Luckily, they already love Japanese food.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      There’s so much going on when you sit up there. Dishes coming out, plates coming back, orders going back and forth between the staff. And the cooking of course. It’s one of the great places to really be immersed directly in Japanese culture.

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